Where Brain Science and Marketing Meet

Huckabee Denies Subliminal Cross

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Sometimes, a shelf is just a shelf? Freud and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee might be thinking alike. Yesterday, we wrote about what appeared to be a not-too-subliminal cross image in a TV ad for Huckabee in Subliminal Religious Message in Huckabee Ad. The New York Post reports that Huckabee is denying that the glowing cross is anything more than a meaningless prop:

Mike Huckabee yesterday denied that he inserted an image of a white cross behind him in an unprecedented campaign ad celebrating Christmas. “That was a book shelf,” Huckabee insisted, responding to controversy over the religious message in his 30-second spot appearing in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. [From the New York Post – Huck’s Cross to Bear by Carl Campanile.]

We’d never suspect an ordained Baptist minister of dissembling, but surely the creators of the ad had to be aware of the cross image. It’s the brightest thing in the frame, and it hovers to the side of Huckabee’s head throughout. While videographers sometimes lose track of a scene’s background and shoot, say, a cell phone tower that appears to be sprouting from an announcer’s head, in a slickly produced 30-second spot nothing is left to chance. Even if the shelf had been a mere prop to begin with, the commercial’s creators could hardly have failed to notice its symbolic value.

What do you think – is the cross image entirely unintentional or clever subliminal design?

5 Comments
  1. SteveH says

    Sorry for being a bit “anal” here, but I think it’s kind of misleading to characterize the placement of the shelf-cross in the video as a “subliminal” technique.

    A subliminal “signal or message [is] embedded in another object, designed to pass below the normal limits of perception.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subliminal_message

    whereas the shelf-cross in the ad is clearly not subliminal, but supraliminal (above the normal limits of perception).
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/supraliminal

    One could argue that although the cross itself is supraliminal, the corresponding messsage (“I stand for Christian values”) is subliminal, but that argument doesn’t fit into the sublinimal-supraliminal distinction since a message is not a perceptual input (like the cross), but rather a cognition (a later product of information processing).

    It is not so much a question about whether something is subliminal or not, but rather if people are aware of the influence that a stimuli has on them. Clearly, one cannot discount the influence of a subliminal stimuli because one cannot (almost by definition) be aware of them (assuming that supraliminal perception is necessary for stimulus awareness).

    However, also supraliminal stimuli may not be recognized as a persuasitve attempt (because, e.g. one’s attention is focused on the face and not on the cross, as mentioned in this blog post).

    Thus, the question is not:

    is the cross image entirely unintentional or clever subliminal design?

    but rather:

    is the cross image entirely unintentional or a clever persuasive strategy?

  2. beava says

    Here is another one to chew on…

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/december2007/191207Message.htm

    Do the tickers contain any subliminal value?

  3. Roger Dooley
    Twitter: rogerdooley
    says

    Interesting way of looking at it, Steve. The term “subliminal” is kind of relative when the symbol in question is so clearly visible.

    Nice find, beava. That’s a fascinating example, since the “Paul is dead” message applied to another candidate and was an entirely different meaning. It’s juxtaposition with the candidate Ron Paul, though, qualifies it, I suppose, as a potentially subliminal message of sorts. I’m sure this was a weird coincidence, but it is amusing.

  4. Alex says

    Im a video artist, and everything is intentional especially for only a 30 secs video. the cross is intentional, subliminal or not this is a cross and there is nothing he can do about it. Its basic visual psychology that people that will see the cross will read it as a Christian’s cross regardless of what it really is.

  5. Stics says

    I would characterize it as a typical case of product placement. Who would ever think that something is unintentional in a commercial for a presidential candidate?

    The cross is of course placed there very intentionally. It is not so that a cross just happened to be there in the background when you are creating the image of a person who is going for president.

    By putting the cross in the picture they want the viewers to perceive Mr Huckabee as a true christian. Furthermore, from the upper left corner a “divine” and discrete light is coming into the room adding to Huckabee’s image as a “holy” candidate for the presidency. 🙂

    Everything is very intentional and does not have anything what-so-ever to do with the concept of subliminal messages. If you believe in Subliminal messages then click here:
    http://iloblog.stics.se/yard?Home&post=2

    G’day

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